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D.C. Mayor Pitted Against Council Over Budget Autonomy Referendum

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A federal judge could soon make a decision in the ongoing legal battle between the mayor and the D.C. Council over the city's budget autonomy law.

Both sides were in federal court Wednesday to deliver oral arguments before Judge Emmitt Sullivan.

At issue: Last year's referendum that was passed by voters to amend the Home Rule Charter so that D.C. can pass its own budget without authorization from Congress.

The bill was approved by the Council, signed by the mayor and became law when Congress didn't step in.

But it turns out the mayor's office — led by Attorney General Irv Nathan — has questions about the validity of the law and is concerned about repercussions for the city if leaders implement the measure. That's because Nathan believes they could potentially be violating federal law by improperly amending the home rule charter and spending money that hasn't been appropriated by Congress.

The D.C. Council, on the other hand, believes the referendum is legitimate and has sued the mayor's office. Karen Dunn, the lawyer representing the Council, told Sullivan during oral arguments that, in her words, "the District has earned its right to budget autonomy."

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